I got an email yesterday from a reader who said she saw me a few DragonCons ago when I did a panel on being a new writer. At that time (if I remember correctly) I did not actually have a novel out yet. I was merely in that pre-novel stage of, "I SOLD IT, AND SOMEONE'S GONNA PUBLISH IT, YAY!"*

But to make a long story short, she was hoping for an update. Her email concluded, "What have you learned since Four and Twenty Blackbirds cme out? What do you know about publishing now that you wish you'd known about then?"

So here's my update, just for her. Let me call it,
Things I've Learned Since My First Book Got Published

    Everyone will think you are rich. Obviously, if you got a book published, someone must have given you fat sacks of cash dollars American. You now have a moral obligation to donate to charities, give to your alma mater, and consider including PBS in your will.

    You will not be rich. Whatever money you might have earned from an advance will have been spent fully a year before your book appears. Maybe you paid off your car, or maybe you got that leather jacket out of lay-away at Wilson's. Whatever, that money is LONG gone.

    Publishing is very exciting. For you, personally. Everyone else will think it's dead boring, and will be sick of hearing about it by suppertime -- once they figure out that you are not rich.

    You will probably still have a day job. This will make you look like a failure to all the people who assume you must be rich. These people can bite you.

    Getting your foot in the door is not the hard part. It is the first hard part.

    Drinking and blogging is right out. Because once you've published a book, you forfeit the right to ever make a typo in public, ever again.

    You are now the foremost authority on the English language. At least, this is what all your friends/relatives who do not write will assume, and they will treat you like their personal diction consultant. While you are at work, you will receive phone calls from Florida, where your aunt wants to know about a comma she's considering for the church bulletin.**

    Everyone will want to know how you did it. This will make you feel very SMRT and like an expert and stuff, for maybe the first (I dunno) two weeks after Locus mentions it. Then you'll get kind of tired of talking about it.

    No one will believe you did it by writing a book that was worth publishing. Aspiring writers will be sure that you had a secret short cut, and you are a raging bitch for holding out on all those other poor folks who are just as worthy as you, but who were unwilling to flash their boobies at exactly the right people. And if you don't think people will actually say things like this, perhaps you have not yet published a book.

    Everyone will want to know why you're not on the New York Times Bestseller List yet. You will pretend that you're much more reasonable about your expectations than that. But secretly, you will also wonder why you're not on an important list someplace and you will feel inadequate.

    People will "helpfully" tell you what you should have done differently with your cover. When you explain that (a). you really love your cover and anyway (b). you-as-author don't get any say-so over this aspect of the publishing process, they will feel sorry for you because obviously you are a loser.

    You now have the inside track to publishing. Everyone you've ever known -- even in passing -- who has ever written a book now thinks that it's your God-given duty to put them in touch with your agent/editor/publisher. This will get awkward.

    People will use your name to lie. At least twice, other writers with whom I was peripherally acquainted approached my (now former) agent and told him that I'd recommended them.

    You will be asked to work for free. This is because you've now achieved that career point of, Technically Successful - Yet Still Approachable. Small upstart markets, acquaintances, etcetera, will appear with offers to "let" you write for them, for "really great street cred." You should kick these people in the shins.

    There is such a thing as the law of aggregate success. You will also be offered more paying gigs, and if possible, you should probably try to take advantage of them. Some paying gigs (especially short markets) do not pay much, but there are plenty of very fine venues that can't afford to offer a huge rate.

    People will ask you questions about stuff you wrote, and you will say, "Um ..." By the time your book actually comes out, it will have been a full year or even two years since you actually composed the material. You will have moved on to other projects, in which you are wholly immersed; and when someone asks about why character X in book one does thing Y, you'll have no earthly idea. But you'll be confident that there was an excellent reason.

    You will get book reviews. If they are good, no force on earth will get those reviews into your hands so you can read them for yourself. If they are bad, fifteen people will email you the text before breakfast.

    You will acquire fans. This will blow your freakin' mind.

    Some of your fans will be annoying. Especially when they email you to say how much they love your work, and then they spend three pages pointing out all the things you did that they totally hate.

    Most of your fans will make you want to squee yourself to death with joy. Because holy crap, someone who is not one of your parents read your book and liked it. I am not exaggerating when I say that this makes it all worth it.

[Edit: I'll update the list as more occur to me.]

* For those of you who know more about my publishing saga -- this was (a). after the first so-micro-it-was-practically-invisible press edition was pulled from the market, and before Tor re-released it. All technicalities aside, I fully consider the Tor edition of Four and Twenty Blackbirds to be my First Book.
** Well, maybe this won't happen to you. But it happened to me.


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